What Is DNS Anyway?

Before creating a terrific website, with thousands of visitors a day, you need to understand the basics of the Domain Name System (DNS). Don’t worry, it’s pretty basic stuff, and after reading this article you’ll be an expert.

Here’s what you’ll learn:

You won’t need to grasp everything in one go. You can bookmark this page and come back at any point in your website creation journey.

1. DNS Basics

DNS stands for Domain Name System. You’ll often hear it described as a kind of phone book for the web. DNS attaches easy-to-remember domain names (like example.com) to an IP address (like These domain names can route network traffic to websites and other online resources.

Basically, DNS allows computers to communicate with each other.

2. DNS Hierarchy

DNS has a simple structure, it is a hierarchy with root servers at the top, followed by top-level domain (TLD) servers (.com, .org, etc.), and then domain name servers managed by various organizations.

Most likely, you’ll be dealing with name servers; for example, if you want to host a website, the host will provide you with a name server address to which you can point your domain.

3. Register Your Own Domain

In order to have your own domain name you just need to register it with a domain registrar. There are many registrars out there, offering different services. Most often, your web host will register a domain when you sign up, but if you want to shop around you are welcome to do so.

Once you’ve registered your own domain, you have control over the DNS records, which you will learn all about in the next section.

4. Types of DNS Records

There are many different types of DNS records. Here’s a basic rundown of the most important:

Record type Purpose
A Points a domain to an IP address
CNAME Maps an alias to a domain name
MX Routes email to the correct inbox

If you want to simply point your domain to an IP address, you’ll want to use an A record. If you want to set up an alias (like blog.example.com) you should use a CNAME record. If you want to have your email server separate from your website, you will need to edit MX records.

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